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Pattie Maes on Ambient Intelligence

by Niclas Nilsson on Oct 29, 2007 |

At OOPSLA 2007, Pattie Maes gave an interesting talk on Meta-Objects for the World Around Us. The title of the talk may not reveal completely what the talk was about, but the fact that Pattie founded and directs the MIT Media Lab’s Ambient Intelligence research group probably does.

Ambient intelligence builds on top of ambient / ubiquitous / pervasive computing and is a term used to describe electronic devices and environments that know how to sense and interact with people. The MIT Media Labs runs a lot of research projects concerning electronic textiles(!) and many projects involving RFID tags.

One project in particular was interesting from an architectural and mashup perspective; the ReachMedia project.

ReachMedia is a system that supports on-the-move interaction with every day objects. The system is built around a wireless wristband with an RFID reader and accelerometers. The wristband detects physical objects that the user is interacting with, and retrieves relevant and personalized information via a smart phone. The user can then have a hands and eyes free interaction with the application by using a unique combination of slight gestural input and audio output.

A typical example of usage is when you reach for a book in the bookstore, your RFID reader reads the tag from the book and sends the information to your smart phone. The phone automatically connects to the internet and finds information about the book; reviews, ratings, references from other books and maybe even which of the books in your bookshelf that referres to this particular book.

Another interesting example is when you meet a person for the first time. Your system and the other persons systems shakes hands to find out who the other person is; goes online and scans the social networks, like LinkedIn or Facebook, to see if you have any mutual friends.

One person in the audience went a bit further and said that the future service he looked forward to the most was an automatic dating service. Imagine walking down the street while your phone is doing matchmaking with other phones that you pass, to see if there is a potential future spouse around.

But this could happen today. Even if we don’t yet carry around any RFID readers and tags, we already use rather powerful mobile phones; phones that have unique identities in their Bluetooth and/or WLAN MAC addresses. Nokia has ported the Apache webserver to Symbian phones and some people already runs Apache and Python on their iPhones, and pages can be served over WLAN or over Bluetooth PAN (Personal Area Network). Combined with things like Microformats (there is already a microformat specification for social networks), something similar could easily be created with existing devices.

A few technical agreements for interoperability is all that’s needed to open up a new world of social networking.

What are we waiting for?

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the future is now :) by Floyd Marinescu

I look forward to the day when we can ditch our wallets and simply walk around with one form of light identifcation which is your UUID, from which you can do anything a wallet could. The cell phone is the natural first place since almost everyone has one...

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